Kaunda Suits: ex-Zambian leader congratulated for inspiring African fashion | New times

Kaunda suits may not be a big fashion statement anymore, but they were a staple for every chic man’s wardrobe in the 1980s and 1990s. They were pretty much wardrobe gems for women. African nationalists and fashionistas who bragged about African fabrics in the years and decades following the independence of many African countries.

The Kaunda costumes were made especially popular by Kenneth Kaunda, the founding president of Zambia, who died last week in a military hospital in Lusaka. He was 97 years old.

Indeed, Kenneth Kaunda’s penchant for style has seen the outfit bear his name in many parts of Africa. Before that, the outfit was mostly known as Safari Suits or Mao Suits.

Kenyans were the first to name Safari Suits after Kenneth Kaunda because of the way he promoted them, the former Zambian leader told CNN in 2014.

“It’s a separate identity, when you think of iconic characters you also think of what they wore,” said leading Rwandan designer Mathew Rugamba, owner of clothing brand House of Tayo. “It was a fashion statement for iconic African leaders like Kenneth Kaunda.”

The Kaunda Suits, he says, “were for the most part synonymous with the fathers of Pan-Africanism, which is why people still love them, they are a symbol of African solidarity and patriotism.”

“People consider Kaunda suits to be one of the sources of African fashion,” he says, adding that the late President Kaunda, affectionately known as KK, refused to wear ties and instead adopted a fabric. stylish african.

Ryan Olivier, a Kigali-based fashion designer, says: “Kaunda suits remain an important piece in the closet, even at this time. He has transcended the generations.

“We must continue to wear the fabric, not only for its elegant look, but also as a tribute to the legacy of Africa’s independence heroes.”

Solomon Mukama, a Rwandan historian, praised Kenneth Kaunda for promoting the style, which he said was a signature fabric for Pan-Africanists.

“They were mostly short-sleeved and the shirt had four pockets. Kaunda suits, along with Kitenge shirts from Zimbabwe, Zaire (now DR Congo) and Ghana, had practically become the dress code of every African nationalist, ” he says.

Mukama adds, “KK rejected the imperialist cultural hegemony of the Europeans and promoted a brand that reminded people of the Africanization agenda that people like Robert Mugabe, Nkwame Nkurumah and Julius Nyerere were spearheading.

Elderly John Gatera explains what it was like to wear a Kaunda costume at the time.

“I regularly wore a Kaunda costume from the late ’80s to the mid’ 90s,” he recalls. “They were common in the working class. Personally, I liked them because they were soft and especially with short sleeves. The fabric represented the uniqueness of Africans and differentiated us from the colonizers, ”explains Gatera.

“Wearing a Kaunda costume back then was like an achievement. KK had elevated the style to a dress code for the African elite and Pan-Africanists. Everyone was eager to own the part and worked hard for it, ”he recalls.

Many notable African leaders after independence, including Sam Nujoma (Namibia), Samora Machel (Mozambique) and Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), were also known for their attachment to the Kaunda costume.

Many of these iconic figures generally did not like wearing ties as they identified them with European colonial rulers and Western imperialists.

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